The Word Among Us

Easter 2018 Issue

A Living Hope

With the Holy Spirit right now and heaven in the future, we have every reason to be hopeful.

A Living Hope: 
With the Holy Spirit right now and heaven in the future, we have every reason to be hopeful.

Poor Peter! Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, he had lost his hope. Jesus, the rabbi he had followed for three entire years, had been arrested—and Peter had caved into pressure, denying that he even knew Jesus. Could there possibly be any redemption for this poor man?

But as he did with the Emmaus disciples, Jesus offered Peter, and all the other apostles, a new hope. Visiting them in the upper room, he “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45). He showed them God’s plan from the beginning of time. And then he promised to give them the Holy Spirit so that they could become a central part of that plan.

From that moment on, Peter’s hope and faith were brought back to life. Having seen Jesus alive again, and having been filled with the promised Holy Spirit, he had everything he needed to go out and build the Church. He fixed his eyes on the promise of heaven, and he devoted himself to sharing these promises with everyone around him.

The Hope of Heaven. It’s hope that sustained Peter as he faced persecution and misunderstanding. It strengthened him as he sought to heal divisions among the first Christians. And it gave him comfort as he offered up his life in Rome. So it’s no wonder that, when he decided to write a letter to believers throughout the Mediterranean, he began by praising and blessing the Lord for giving him—and all of us—“a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus” (1 Peter 1:3). It’s no wonder that he reminds us of the imperishable “inheritance” that Jesus has won for us (1:4).

What was this inheritance? It was nothing less than the promise of heaven. At the Last Supper, just after predicting that they would all abandon him, Jesus sought to reassure his disciples. “Do not let your hearts be troubled,” he told them. “I am going to prepare a place for you” (14:1, 2). He promised that even though they would lose their faith, even though Peter himself would deny ever having known Jesus, he would still come back and take them to be with him forever.

In a sense, everything Jesus said and did revolved around heaven. Every miracle he performed pointed to the way we will be transformed in heaven. Every sermon he preached told us how to live so that we could bring heaven to earth. And every parable he told painted a picture of the heavenly life that God wants us to begin experiencing right now.

Thy Kingdom Come! Take a moment right now and try to imagine what heaven is going to be like. Imagine a world where there is no more sickness or suffering or pain. Imagine a world where there will be no more need for doctors or hospitals or armies or police forces. Imagine a world where all divisions are mended: divisions between countries, divisions between cultures, divisions within families. Imagine a world free from the fear of death or decay, a world where everyone is restored to their original health, vitality, and innocence. This is the future that Jesus has promised you. It’s a future that more than makes up for all the hardship of the present.

So hold on to the promise! Every time you pray, “Thy kingdom come,” tell Jesus that you are placing your hope in him and in his redemption. Tell him that you believe that he has a place for you in his kingdom. Then go into your day trying your best to bring that kingdom into your life and into your family a little more each day. Try to keep your eyes fixed on your heavenly home, and you’ll find yourself becoming more joyful. You’ll find that God has all the grace you need to face the challenges of life and still not lose sight of your hope in heaven.

Come, Holy Spirit! Now, can you imagine how the disciples would have felt if Jesus had promised them heaven, but failed to help them on their journey there? It would be like someone telling you that a nine-course meal was waiting for you at a fine restaurant, but not giving you directions to the place. That would seem awfully mean-spirited, wouldn’t it?

That’s not the kind of false hope that Jesus gave his disciples. He promised to give them the Holy Spirit, who would teach them, lead them, and guide them on their way to heaven. He promised too that the Holy Spirit would give them the grace they would need to stay close to him and to build his Church.

On Pentecost Sunday, the same Peter who had denied knowing Jesus just fifty days earlier told the crowd, “The promise is made to you and to your children and to all those far off” (Acts 2:39). That means the promise is for you. Jesus has given you the Holy Spirit, just as he did for the apostles.

Jesus didn’t promise us the Spirit just because he wanted to be generous. He made this promise because he knows we need the Holy Spirit in our lives. We need his power to heal the memories of our past hurts. We need his reassurance of God’s mercy when we have sinned. We need his peace when we are ensnared in difficult situations. We need his refreshing love when life gets hard. And we need him to remind us of God’s generosity when life is easy. In short, Jesus promised to give us the Spirit because he knew that we couldn’t follow him without this precious gift.

Fifty Days for the Spirit. Every day this season offers a new opportunity to welcome the Holy Spirit into your life more fully. Each morning, when you wake up, ask the Spirit to be with you through your day. You can pray, “Come, Holy Spirit, and fill me with your peace and your courage today. Help me stay close to Jesus so that I won’t give in to temptation. Give me the courage to share your love with the people around me.”

Then, every night before you go to sleep, take a few moments to review the day. Look for times when you felt bad about yourself, but then you felt the Spirit consoling you. Look for times when you were about to lose your temper, but you felt his peace instead. Look for times when you caught a sense of God’s love as if it came out of nowhere. Look for times when you were tempted to snap at someone, but you held your tongue or, even better, offered kind words instead. All of these are signs of the Spirit at work in you.

You may not experience all of this at once, but give it time. Keep inviting the Spirit into your day each morning, and keep looking for signs of his help in the evening. In as little as fifty days (the time between Easter and Pentecost), you will see changes. You’ll find yourself turning to the Spirit during the day. You’ll find yourself asking for his help—and getting it! Jesus promised you the Holy Spirit, and he is always faithful to his promises.

Do Not Be Troubled. It’s one thing to try to go through your life with patience and humility. It’s one thing to try your best to follow the Ten Commandments and to be as kind to people as you can. But if you do, you risk missing out on everything Jesus has promised you. You risk missing out on the divine hope he wants to give you, both the hope of heaven and the hope of the Spirit.

Imagine how much more peaceful and confident you can be if you keep Jesus’ promise of heaven in the forefront of your mind. Imagine how much more fulfilling life can be if you ask the Holy Spirit to fill you and guide you.

At the Last Supper, Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1). On the road to Emmaus, he told the disciples about the wonderful plan God had for them. And just before his ascension, he said, “I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Let promises like these fill you with hope this Easter season. Let Jesus tell you that you already belong to heaven and that his Holy Spirit already lives in your heart. Tell yourself, “I am destined for glory, and by the power of the Spirit, I have all the grace I need to get there.”